Once upon a time . . . . . from
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The Dryad - Part 2
In very truth it was. That's what all the reports said,
and who did not hear them? The Dryad knew everything that is
told here of the new wonder in the city of cities.
'Fly away, ye birds! fly away to see, and then come back
and tell me,' said the Dryad.
The wish became an intense desire- became the one thought
of a life. Then, in the quiet silent night, while the full
moon was shining, the Dryad saw a spark fly out of the moon's
disc, and fall like a shooting star. And before the tree,
whose leaves waved to and fro as if they were stirred by a
tempest, stood a noble, mighty, and grand figure. In tones
that were at once rich and strong, like the trumpet of the
Last Judgment bidding farewell to life and summoning to the
great account, it said:
'Thou shalt go to the city of magic; thou shalt take root
there, and enjoy the mighty rushing breezes, the air and the
sunshine there. But the time of thy life shall then be
shortened; the line of years that awaited thee here amid the
free nature shall shrink to but a small tale. Poor Dryad! It
shall be thy destruction. Thy yearning and longing will
increase, thy desire will grow more stormy, the tree itself
will be as a prison to thee, thou wilt quit thy cell and give
up thy nature to fly out and mingle among men. Then the years
that would have belonged to thee will be contracted to half
the span of the ephemeral fly, that lives but a day: one
night, and thy life-taper shall be blown out- the leaves of
the tree will wither and be blown away, to become green never
Thus the words sounded. And the light vanished away, but
not the longing of the Dryad. She trembled in the wild fever
'I shall go there!' she cried, rejoicingly. 'Life is
beginning and swells like a cloud; nobody knows whither it is
When the gray dawn arose and the moon turned pale and the
clouds were tinted red, the wished-for hour struck. The words
of promise were fulfilled.
People appeared with spades and poles; they dug round the
roots of the tree, deeper and deeper, and beneath it. A wagon
was brought out, drawn by many horses, and the tree was lifted
up, with its roots and the lumps of earth that adhered to
them; matting was placed around the roots, as though the tree
had its feet in a warm bag. And now the tree was lifted on the
wagon and secured with chains. The journey began- the journey
to Paris. There the tree was to grow as an ornament to the
city of French glory.
The twigs and the leaves of the chestnut tree trembled in
the first moments of its being moved; and the Dryad trembled
in the pleasurable feeling of expectation.
'Away! away!' it sounded in every beat of her pulse.
'Away! away' sounded in words that flew trembling along. The
Dryad forgot to bid farewell to the regions of home; she
thought not of the waving grass and of the innocent daisies,
which had looked up to her as to a great lady, a young
Princess playing at being a shepherdess out in the open air.
The chestnut tree stood upon the wagon, and nodded his
branches; whether this meant 'farewell' or 'forward,' the
Dryad knew not; she dreamed only of the marvellous new things,
that seemed yet so familiar, and that were to unfold
themselves before her. No child's heart rejoicing in
innocence- no heart whose blood danced with passion- had set
out on the journey to Paris more full of expectation than she.
Her 'farewell' sounded in the words 'Away! away!'
The wheels turned; the distant approached; the present
vanished. The region was changed, even as the clouds change.
New vineyards, forests, villages, villas appeared- came
The chestnut tree moved forward, and the Dryad went with
it. Steam-engine after steam-engine rushed past, sending up
into the air vapory clouds, that formed figures which told of
Paris, whence they came, and whither the Dryad was going.
Everything around knew it, and must know whither she was
bound. It seemed to her as if every tree she passed stretched
out its leaves towards her, with the prayer- 'Take me with
you! take me with you!' for every tree enclosed a longing
What changes during this flight! Houses seemed to be
rising out of the earth- more and more- thicker and thicker.
The chimneys rose like flower-pots ranged side by side, or in
rows one above the other, on the roofs. Great inscriptions in
letters a yard long, and figures in various colors, covering
the walls from cornice to basement, came brightly out.
'Where does Paris begin, and when shall I be there?' asked
The crowd of people grew; the tumult and the bustle
increased; carriage followed upon carriage; people on foot and
people on horseback were mingled together; all around were
shops on shops, music and song, crying and talking.
The Dryad, in her tree, was now in the midst of Paris. The
great heavy wagon all at once stopped on a little square
planted with trees. The high houses around had all of them
balconies to the windows, from which the inhabitants looked
down upon the young fresh chestnut tree, which was coming to
be planted here as a substitute for the dead tree that lay
stretched on the ground.
The passers-by stood still and smiled in admiration of its
pure vernal freshness. The older trees, whose buds were still
closed, whispered with their waving branches, 'Welcome!
welcome!' The fountain, throwing its jet of water high up in
the air, to let it fall again in the wide stone basin, told
the wind to sprinkle the new-comer with pearly drops, as if it
wished to give him a refreshing draught to welcome him.
The Dryad felt how her tree was being lifted from the
wagon to be placed in the spot where it was to stand. The
roots were covered with earth, and fresh turf was laid on top.
Blooming shrubs and flowers in pots were ranged around; and
thus a little garden arose in the square.
The tree that had been killed by the fumes of gas, the
steam of kitchens, and the bad air of the city, was put upon
the wagon and driven away. The passers-by looked on. Children
and old men sat upon the bench, and looked at the green tree.
And we who are telling this story stood upon a balcony, and
looked down upon the green spring sight that had been brought
in from the fresh country air, and said, what the old
clergyman would have said, 'Poor Dryad!'
'I am happy! I am happy!' the Dryad cried, rejoicing; 'and
yet I cannot realize, cannot describe what I feel. Everything
is as I fancied it, and yet as I did not fancy it.'
The houses stood there, so lofty, so close! The sunlight
shone on only one of the walls, and that one was stuck over
with bills and placards, before which the people stood still;
and this made a crowd.
Carriages rushed past, carriages rolled past; light ones
and heavy ones mingled together. Omnibuses, those over-crowded
moving houses, came rattling by; horsemen galloped among them;
even carts and wagons asserted their rights.
The Dryad asked herself if these high-grown houses, which
stood so close around her, would not remove and take other
shapes, like the clouds in the sky, and draw aside, so that
she might cast a glance into Paris, and over it. Notre Dame
must show itself, the Vendome Column, and the wondrous
building which had called and was still calling so many
strangers to the city.
But the houses did not stir from their places. It was yet
day when the lamps were lit. The gas-jets gleamed from the
shops, and shone even into the branches of the trees, so that
it was like sunlight in summer. The stars above made their
appearance, the same to which the Dryad had looked up in her
home. She thought she felt a clear pure stream of air which
went forth from them. She felt herself lifted up and
strengthened, and felt an increased power of seeing through
every leaf and through every fibre of the root. Amid all the
noise and the turmoil, the colors and the lights, she knew
herself watched by mild eyes.
From the side streets sounded the merry notes of fiddles
and wind instruments. Up! to the dance, to the dance! to
jollity and pleasure! that was their invitation. Such music it
was, that horses, carriages, trees, and houses would have
danced, if they had known how. The charm of intoxicating
delight filled the bosom of the Dryad.
'How glorious, how splendid it is!' she cried,
rejoicingly. 'Now I am in Paris!'
The next day that dawned, the next night that fell,
offered the same spectacle, similar bustle, similar life;
changing, indeed, yet always the same; and thus it went on
through the sequence of days.
'Now I know every tree, every flower on the square here! I
know every house, every balcony, every shop in this narrow
cut-off corner, where I am denied the sight of this great
mighty city. Where are the arches of triumph, the Boulevards,
the wondrous building of the world? I see nothing of all this.
As if shut up in a cage, I stand among the high houses, which
I now know by heart, with their inscriptions, signs, and
placards; all the painted confectionery, that is no longer to
my taste. Where are all the things of which I heard, for which
I longed, and for whose sake I wanted to come hither? what
have I seized, found, won? I feel the same longing I felt
before; I feel that there is a life I should wish to grasp and
to experience. I must go out into the ranks of living men, and
mingle among them. I must fly about like a bird. I must see
and feel, and become human altogether. I must enjoy the one
half-day, instead of vegetating for years in every-day
sameness and weariness, in which I become ill, and at last
sink and disappear like the dew on the meadows. I will gleam
like the cloud, gleam in the sunshine of life, look out over
the whole like the cloud, and pass away like it, no one
Thus sighed the Dryad; and she prayed:
'Take from me the years that were destined for me, and
give me but half of the life of the ephemeral fly! Deliver me
from my prison! Give me human life, human happiness, only a
short span, only the one night, if it cannot be otherwise; and
then punish me for my wish to live, my longing for life!
Strike me out of thy list. Let my shell, the fresh young tree,
wither, or be hewn down, and burnt to ashes, and scattered to
all the winds!'
A rustling went through the leaves of the tree; there was
a trembling in each of the leaves; it seemed as if fire
streamed through it. A gust of wind shook its green crown, and
from the midst of that crown a female figure came forth. In
the same moment she was sitting beneath the
brightly-illuminated leafy branches, young and beautiful to
behold, like poor Mary, to whom the clergyman had said, 'The
great city will be thy destruction.'
The Dryad sat at the foot of the tree- at her house door,
which she had locked, and whose key had thrown away. So young!
so fair! The stars saw her, and blinked at her. The gas-lamps
saw her, and gleamed and beckoned to her. How delicate she
was, and yet how blooming!- a child, and yet a grown maiden!
Her dress was fine as silk, green as the freshly-opened leaves
on the crown of the tree; in her nut-brown hair clung a
half-opened chestnut blossom. She looked like the Goddess of
For one short minute she sat motionless; then she sprang
up, and, light as a gazelle, she hurried away. She ran and
sprang like the reflection from the mirror that, carried by
the sunshine, is cast, now here, now there. Could any one have
followed her with his eyes, he would have seen how
marvellously her dress and her form changed, according to the
nature of the house or the place whose light happened to shine
She reached the Boulevards. Here a sea of light streamed
forth from the gas-flames of the lamps, the shops and the
cafes. Here stood in a row young and slender trees, each of
which concealed its Dryad, and gave shade from the artificial
sunlight. The whole vast pavement was one great festive hall,
where covered tables stood laden with refreshments of all
kinds, from champagne and Chartreuse down to coffee and beer.
Here was an exhibition of flowers, statues, books, and colored
From the crowd close by the lofty houses she looked forth
over the terrific stream beyond the rows of trees. Yonder
heaved a stream of rolling carriages, cabriolets, coaches,
omnibuses, cabs, and among them riding gentlemen and marching
troops. To cross to the opposite shore was an undertaking
fraught with danger to life and limb. Now lanterns shed their
radiance abroad; now the gas had the upper hand; suddenly a
rocket rises! Whence? Whither?
Here are sounds of soft Italian melodies; yonder, Spanish
songs are sung, accompanied by the rattle of the castanets;
but strongest of all, and predominating over the rest, the
street-organ tunes of the moment, the exciting 'Can-Can'
music, which Orpheus never knew, and which was never heard by
the 'Belle Helene.' Even the barrow was tempted to hop upon
one of its wheels.
The Dryad danced, floated, flew, changing her color every
moment, like a humming-bird in the sunshine; each house, with
the world belonging to it, gave her its own reflections.
As the glowing lotus-flower, torn from its stem, is
carried away by the stream, so the Dryad drifted along.
Whenever she paused, she was another being, so that none was
able to follow her, to recognize her, or to look more closely
Like cloud-pictures, all things flew by her. She looked
into a thousand faces, but not one was familiar to her; she
saw not a single form from home. Two bright eyes had remained
in her memory. She thought of Mary, poor Mary, the ragged
merry child, who wore the red flowers in her black hair. Mary
was now here, in the world-city, rich and magnificent as in
that day when she drove past the house of the old clergyman,
and past the tree of the Dryad, the old oak.
Here she was certainly living, in the deafening tumult.
Perhaps she had just stepped out of one of the gorgeous
carriages in waiting. Handsome equipages, with coachmen in
gold braid and footmen in silken hose, drove up. The people
who alighted from them were all richly-dressed ladies. They
went through the opened gate, and ascended the broad staircase
that led to a building resting on marble pillars. Was this
building, perhaps, the wonder of the world? There Mary would
certainly be found.
'Sancta Maria!' resounded from the interior. Incense
floated through the lofty painted and gilded aisles, where a
solemn twilight reigned.
It was the Church of the Madeleine.
Clad in black garments of the most costly stuffs,
fashioned according to the latest mode, the rich feminine
world of Paris glided across the shining pavement. The crests
of the proprietors were engraved on silver shields on the
velvet-bound prayer-books, and embroidered in the corners of
perfumed handkerchiefs bordered with Brussels lace. A few of
the ladies were kneeling in silent prayer before the altars;
others resorted to the confessionals.
Anxiety and fear took possession of the Dryad; she felt as
if she had entered a place where she had no right to be. Here
was the abode of silence, the hall of secrets. Everything was
said in whispers, every word was a mystery.
The Dryad saw herself enveloped in lace and silk, like the
women of wealth and of high birth around her. Had, perhaps,
every one of them a longing in her breast, like the Dryad?
A deep, painful sigh was heard. Did it escape from some
confessional in a distant corner, or from the bosom of the
Dryad? She drew the veil closer around her; she breathed
incense, and not the fresh air. Here was not the abiding-place
of her longing.
Away! away- a hastening without rest. The ephemeral fly
knows not repose, for her existence is flight.
She was out again among the gas candelabra, by a
'All its streaming waters are not able to wash out the
innocent blood that was spilt here.'
Such were the words spoken. Strangers stood around,
carrying on a lively conversation, such as no one would have
dared to carry on in the gorgeous hall of secrets whence the
A heavy stone slab was turned and then lifted. She did not
understand why. She saw an opening that led into the depths
below. The strangers stepped down, leaving the starlit air and
the cheerful life of the upper world behind them.
'I am afraid,' said one of the women who stood around, to
her husband, 'I cannot venture to go down, nor do I care for
the wonders down yonder. You had better stay here with me.'
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